Roger Charlton is hoping Decorated Knight can fly the flag in style for the older brigade and repel a strong team of younger rivals in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday 8th July.
The £500,000 feature, run over a mile and a quarter and part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, is the first time that three-year-olds and their older counterparts get the opportunity to meet in a Group 1 contest over middle distances. A final field of nine has been declared.
Golden Horn and Hawkbill have prevailed for the Classic generation for the past two years but it has been 26 years since three-year-olds won the race three times in succession via Nashwan (1989), Elmaamul (1990) and Environment Friend (1991).
Decorated Knight, a five-year-old son of Galileo, has been thriving on his racing with his official rating rising from 85 to 119 since he won a handicap at Sandown just under two years ago. He split Highland Reel and Ulysses in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest start (the latter re-opposes), having previously won the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
Charlton said: “Every time Decorated Knight has run, he has produced a better performance. It was no disgrace to be beaten by Highland Reel.
“He’s a tough, sound, genuine racehorse suited by fast ground and a mile and a quarter. We’ve no need to look beyond that distance for him. He has come out of his run at Royal Ascot in very good shape, especially considering how hot it was. He got very sweaty that day, but that’s just him and it does not affect his performance.”
The weight-for-age scale means that Decorated Knight has to concede 10lb to his younger rivals. When asked to assess them, the Beckhampton handler, who landed the Eclipse with Al Kazeem four years ago, said: “Barney Roy looked pretty good at Ascot and I’ve got plenty of respect for all of them, but they haven’t been tested.”
Martyn Meade, the trainer of Eminent (pictured top, courtesy of hoycubed photography), says an Eclipse victory would be a “very good consolation prize” after the colt’s defeats in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and Investec Derby.
Meade believes the son of Frankel, who will be ridden by Silvestre de Sousa for the first time, is overdue some good fortune after not getting the rub of the green at either Newmarket, where he finished sixth to Churchill, or at Epsom, when beaten a length and three quarters into fourth behind Wings Of Eagles.
The Newmarket-based trainer, seeking a first Group 1 success, says he was filled with a mixture of pride and frustration after Eminent’s Derby display. He said: “The person that greeted us into fourth sport said ‘would you like to re-run the race’ and I said ‘yes, I certainly would’ because we were unlucky. It took me a few days to get over it – seeing the horse making ground all the way and then being short of room.”
Meade has been delighted with Eminent since Epsom. “Another horse might have sulked or not sparkled for a couple of weeks but he was perfect from the moment he arrived back in the stable,” he said. “He was straight into his grub and the next day he was squealing and ready to go at it again.
“Physically he’s tightened up and strengthened up, and every race he’s had has helped toughen him up mentally. He’s progressed all the time and this would be a very good consolation prize.”
With regard to the 10lb that Decorated Knight must concede, he added: “That’s an awful lot of weight, especially when we are still improving. On paper it should be between the first five in the betting but, as we saw in the Derby, it does not always work out like that.”
Cliffs Of Moher, who was second in the Derby, and Barney Roy, who was runner-up in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas before going one better in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, give the three-year-olds an exceptionally strong hand. Salouen and Taj Mahal also represent the age group.
The David Simcock-trained Lightning Spear, who chased home Ribchester in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes on his penultimate start, steps up in distance. His stablemate, Desert Encounter, completes the field.
AIDAN O’BRIEN IN THIS YEAR’S QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPION SERIES
The Coral-Eclipse is this 16th race of 35 in this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series and Aidan O’Brien is firmly on course to beat the ten winners he managed last year.
O’Brien has already saddled the winners of seven of this year’s races courtesy of Churchill (QIPCO 2000 Guineas), Winter (QIPCO 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes), Highland Reel (Investec Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales’s Stakes), Wings Of Eagles (Investec Derby) and Caravaggio (Commonwealth Cup).
Not content with that haul, he has also had the runner-up in five of this year’s contests with none going closer than Order Of St George, who was beaten a short head by Big Orange in the Gold Cup. Six of his other runners have finished either third or fourth.
In total, O’Brien has had 33 runners in this year’s Series and been represented in all bar two of the contests – the Betway Yorkshire Cup and Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
RYAN MOORE IN THIS YEAR’S QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPION SERIES
Three-time champion jockey Ryan Moore is the only jockey to have ridden in all 15 QIPCO British Champions Series this season.
His form figures read 121412230412113, with his six winners being Churchill (QIPCO 2000 Guineas), Dartmouth (Betway Yorkshire Cup), Winter (Coronation Stakes), Highland Reel (Investec Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales’s Stakes) and Caravaggio (Commonwealth Cup).
He has ridden for Aidan O’Brien in 13 of the races but twice played supporting roles in races won by lesser fancied runners from the Ballydoyle stable. He was on Rhododendron (second) when Winter won the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and partnered Cliffs Of Moher (second) when Wings Of Eagles won the Investec Derby.
His two rides when O’Brien has not been represented have been Dartmouth and Limato, the latter finishing third in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.